Kenya: JRS extends services to Somali new-arrivals
30 October 2009

Kakuma, 30 October 2009 — According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the relocation of 12,900 refugees from Dadaab refugee camp in north-eastern Kenya to Kakuma refugee camp in north-western Kenya was recently completed. It had been going on since mid August. The relocation is a first step towards decongesting the world’s largest refugee site at Dadaab, currently hosting over 280,000 refugees, most of them from Somalia. UNHCR said, 6,400 refugees are crossing the Kenya-Somalia border every month.

In Kakuma, eleven organisations, among them JRS have been involved in the reception of the new-arrivals who were exhausted after the two day bus journey. They were provided with basic services and tents which will hopefully protect them from forecasted heavy rains. Whether the newly arrived Somalis will find support within the refugee community already living at Kakuma is yet to be seen.

Right after their arrival, JRS introduced the refugees’ interim officials to the range of services the organisation can offer, such as counseling, alternative healing, psycho-social support and care for those with mental health challenges. The leaders reacted with a mixture of surprise and happiness as they realised that their needs will be attended to. Many have been separated from their families and were traumatised during their flight. Others struggle with head injuries and sensory impairments due to war.

Although resources are already overstretched, JRS has since trained more Somali speaking refugee staff and increased the number of basic items to ensure that the needs of the new arrivals are met and their lives improved. Moreover, the number of refugees JRS is serving in one of its three day care centres has doubled to 50 during the last month. The centres offer care, therapeutical and recreational support as well as informal classes for children who have been traumatised or who have developmental disabilities.

Somali refugees face huge challenges in the camp, especially due to their language. They are mostly unable to express their needs, explain health related problems and children find it difficult to follow school lessons. Since Kakuma is located in a semi-arid zone, there is not enough water to build permanent structures as they settle down.

After the 2005 peace accord in Southern Sudan, activities at Kakuma had been scaled down and the camp was expected to close down after the repatriation of refugees from Southern Sudan would be completed. With the new arrivals from Dadaab, the refugee population has increased from 43,000 to 58,000 and is expected to grow but service provision remains inadequate as most organisations were not prepared for an increase in the population.

At the moment, one hospital with two clinics, six pre-schools, five primary schools, a secondary school and two food distribution centres cater for the refugees’ needs. The secondary school is currently attended by over three thousand pupils, with some classes accommodating 150 pupils. There is clearly more need for educational, medical and psycho-social services, food, water and clothing, to mention the least.

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